Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels, reportedly sought help from liberal donors in his fight against President Trump and attorney Michael Cohen -- but was unable to secure the additional funding.
Avenatti on Friday disputed the account, which was published in The New York Times, and claimed that -- to the contrary -- he has turned down Republican offers of financial help.
“Never happened,” Avenatti told Fox News in an email, regarding the reported contact with liberal donors. “But what I can tell you is we have turned down over $200,000 in the last month from 3 separate republican donors looking to harm the President.”
The Times reported that Avenatti, though, contacted an official in the network of liberal groups led by Media Matters founder David Brock. The Times also reported that someone associated with Avenatti’s law firm contacted two people connected to major Democratic donors.
Brock’s groups include Media Matters, ShareBlue, American Bridge Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and others. Last year, Brock’s network aimed to raise $40 million to fight Trump.
According to the Times, the conversations did not lead to any financial help for the legal battle. Brock’s groups reportedly decided not to donate to Avenatti and Daniels, saying the legal fight was being played out in the media.
Avenatti has been on a media blitz in recent months, making frequent appearances on CNN and MSNBC. This week, the federal judge presiding over the criminal investigation into Cohen, Kimba Wood, warned Avenatti he'd have to give up his “publicity tour” if he wanted to participate in the case against Cohen.
Avenatti, later that day, withdrew his motion to intervene—at least until the court rules whether Daniels is allowed to participate in the case.
But Avenatti has faced questions in recent weeks over who is financing the legal fight.
Mark Penn, former top pollster for Bill and Hillary Clinton, said last month that Avenatti should reveal who is funding him.
“Avenatti needs to come forward with exactly who is financing his operation, who his sources were for [Cohen’s] detailed banking information, and whether he really is an attorney solely representing Stormy Daniels or just using her as cover to wage a political operation,” Penn wrote in an op-ed for The Hill.
Avenatti slammed Penn’s comments, calling his column "ridiculous." Avenatti posted a statement saying the case is funded by Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) and crowdfunded donations online.
“[N]o political party or PAC is funding this effort. No left wing conspiracy group is behind this. And no big fat cat political donors are leading the charge. Get over it,” Avenatti said last month.
Avenatti’s personal business dealings have also come into question in recent weeks.
The California State Bar Association has launched an investigation into Avenatti and his role in the purchase of Tully’s Coffee several years ago through an entity called Global Baristas.
The complaint was filed by attorney David Nold of Bellevue, Wash. The complaint says Avenatti and Global Baristas faced a lien for unpaid federal taxes worth roughly $5 million, claiming taxes were withheld from workers’ paychecks but not paid to the government. The complaint called into question Avenatti’s “fitness to practice law.”
“The federal tax lien is related to an entity that was owned by another company that I used to have an interest in,” Avenatti told Fox News last month. “At no point in time was I ever responsible for any taxes for Global Baristas US LLC, nor was I ever a member of that entity, nor did I own any direct interest in that entity.”
Cohen’s attorneys used that complaint as an argument against Avenatti joining the federal criminal investigation as part of a grand jury probe into Cohen’s personal business dealings—including the $130,000 payment made to Daniels in the weeks before the 2016 election in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.
Last week, Avenatti and his firm Eagan Avenatti LLP were hit with court judgements ordering them to repay millions of dollars in outstanding debts.
The Wall Street Journal also reported Friday that in 2015, Avenatti and his wife entered a deal with casino mogul Gary Primm to buy his mansion for $15.75 million without a mortgage. The couple reportedly moved in later that year after making a $1 million deposit and agreeing to monthly payments of $900,000 toward the price. The Journal reported that two days before $14 million was due, an anonymously owned company filed notice of a lawsuit against the property, freeing Avenatti to back out of the deal.